Reconciliation/Sacraments New School Year, Who Dis? by Juan Aznaran It’s the first day of school. You have all of your school supplies ready. You bought new clothes, new books, new everything. You’re ready to begin. Do you remember having this feeling last year? It’s always so exciting, yet scary, to start anew. What if my classes are too hard? What if I don’t have any classes with my friends? What if I get that super strict teacher? Despite all of the questions, I still remember those first days being some of the best. As a kid, I was so eager to start my new classes because I couldn’t wait to show off my new pens and Power Ranger’s backpack. But once I got into middle school, I slowly started to realize that starting school all over again was not all that exciting. As I went into high school, I began to despise the first day of school (and having to wake up to catch the bus every morning) a little more each day. It seemed that each year my teachers already had an idea of who I was — and not for good reasons — which made it that much harder to have a fresh start. You see, I was a bit of a headache for my teachers — and looking back, they probably should have been warned about me. But it seemed pointless to try to make a new impression because they already knew who I was and nothing would change that. Get in Line or Get Out On my first day of eleventh grade, a teacher kept me after class. He did not waste any time and told me that he didn’t care for any “punks” in his classroom, so I could either get in line or get out. I remember feeling so annoyed and yet, it stirred up a sense of fear in me that would not go away for the rest of the year. I went to confession a couple of months ago and before going in to talk to the priest, I felt very uneasy and scared — a feeling very similar to that of starting a new school year. As I was walking around the church doing my examination of conscience, I remember thinking, “What if He were to say, ‘I won’t take any more nonsense, either you get in line or get out’?” I pondered this thought for a while, so much so that I ended up psyching myself out and didn’t even go to confession that day. I just couldn’t shake the thought that God wouldn’t actually forgive me. The next day, when I finally got the courage to go to confession, I decided to go face to face with the priest — cray, I know — and after I finished telling him what happened the day before, he looked at me and paused. Then… he proceeded to laugh. Now, I have never been in this situation before so I just sat there, not knowing what to do. Once the priest got a hold of himself, he said, “Could you imagine? If God didn’t forgive even some people, I’d be out of a job!” Then we both started laughing at how silly that idea was. Thinking back about this moment, I realized how incredibly faith-filled this priest was that he had not a single doubt about God’s mercy. And it may sound silly, I know, but in that moment, I wished I had the confidence he had to not even entertain the crazy idea that God would not forgive us. The priest knew that He would, and nothing or no one could ever convince him otherwise. He knew God would forgive my sins before I even walked into the confessional. Now this isn’t a free pass to do whatever I want, but rather, it’s an invitation to experience a deeper level of trust in His mercy. He Makes All Things New Unlike my teachers who judged me before getting to know me, Christ knows exactly who you are and yet, He still chooses to forgive you. Even more so, because He knows who you are, He does not withhold His mercy from you. As Catholics, we are given the amazing gift of mercy, a gift that is perfect for starting anew (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Revelation 21:5). We have a God who makes all things new. Every time we receive a sprinkle of holy water, we are made new. Every time we renew our vows at a baptism, we are made new. Every Easter, we are reminded that we are made new through Him, with Him, and in Him, so we that we may share in His triumph over death and rejoice in eternal life. This year, as you walk through those new, or maybe familiar, hallways remember that no matter what you are going through at home, at school, at your parish, with your friends, etc., you can always start anew in Christ. Don’t fear the questions: What if it is too hard? What if I don’t feel like I can do it? Welcome them confidently knowing that no matter where you are in life, Christ will never look at you and say, “New year, who dis?” Instead, He will offer you the grace of renewal, but only if you are willing to accept it.